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Change is difficult but necessary, says leading education expert

Apple manager says teachers have to embrace technology in the classroom.

Teachers are too busy for technology.

They want to use it but then ‘life gets in the way’ and they fall back on old habits, says Stephanie Hamilton, senior manager of strategic education solutions at Apple Inc.

‘The problem is teachers don’t know what it looks like,’ says Hamilton. ‘Teachers have to be able to see and know, ‘how do I use this technology and where does it go?’”

Hamilton was addressing 400 teachers and administrators from schools across Norway as a keynote speaker at itslearning’s annual user conference on April 23.

She spoke generally about education technology, broaching topics like mobile devices in the classroom and the changing role of teachers in the digital age.

Hamilton, a teacher for 19 years, says teachers are hesitant to embrace technology, partly because teaching is a ‘risk adverse’ occupation. Though her lecture pointed to the challenges teachers have with technology, she also highlighted the benefits of the virtual classroom.

Technology in the classroom equips students with 21st century skills, increases achievement, personalizes education and differentiates learning. Using online textbooks, students can highlight important passages and write notes in the margins, which is not possible with paper textbooks.

Technology is changing the face of teaching. In schools of the past, teachers viewed their students as blank slates and their task was to fill their heads with information. In today’s classroom, students can use their mobile devices to search for the latest information in class.

“Information doubles three times every time you walk into a class,” Hamilton said.

“Teachers can’t be content experts. Teachers have to be the providers of context. We teach stuff but we don’t teach the meaning of stuff.

“It’s not about memorizing and teaching it, it’s about putting information into context. You have to have the contextual significance.”

For example, instead of teaching from a textbook about the rule of law, she said teachers could have mined the Internet for information about the Arab Spring to teach about the rule of despots.

She added teachers need to transition from being ‘master teachers to master learners’ who establish ‘two-way partnerships’ with students.

“What do teachers have too little of? And what do students have too much of? Time,” she said. “Use what the students know.”

Hamilton said that the emergence of mobile devices in the classroom reverted the education sector back to the 16th century when all students had personal teachers.

“Technology allows for individual learning,” she said.

“Saying no to students about technology is like trying to hold back a tsunami with your hand.

“If we don’t have more creativity and innovation in schools, we will have all these people preparing for a world that doesn’t exist.”

Suggested reading from Stephanie Hamilton

  • Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson and Michael B. Horn: Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.
  • Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey: Inevitable: mass customized learning.
  • Daniel H. Pink: Drive.
  • Chip Heath: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

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